Ball State University has served students with disabilities for a number of years, almost since its inception. With the establishment of the Office of Disabled Student Development in 1973, the campus proudly offered additional services and as a result the student population with disabilities increased tremendously. Today, more than 650 students use our services, and the office has recently changed its name to Disability Services. Our office, and the students and alumni within what we consider a community, has been a witness to many success stories. In honor of some of our most accomplished students and alumni, we have composed a list of many of our past Outstanding Alumni Award winners in hopes that their stories will continue to inspire current students. These award winners have both apparent and non-apparent disabilities and these individuals continue to excel in their fields.
Below are the names and years in which these alumni were awarded the Outstanding Alumni Award.
Bill Roth, 1985: Bill Roth served as the president for the Braun Corporation for 22 years—a company dedicated to making vehicles accessible for people with disabilities. Recently retired, Roth has been spending time with his wife, extended family, and his canine companion Raymer. He attributes Ball State University as the foundation for his success in the workforce. His advice for current students: "Academics are important, but it is your work ethic, respect for others, God and country, loyalty and dedication that are of even greater importance."
Greg Thomsen, 1986: Having a number of leadership roles post-graduation, Thomsen began his career as the Director of Disabled Student Services at Marquette University and now serves as the CEO for Columbus Specialty Hospital in Georgia. He currently resides in Georgia with his wife, Pat, and is interested in photography and travel. His advice for current students: "Hook up with a mentor like Rich Harris, dream big, have many friends, and work hard."
Jere Truex, 1987 (Deceased): Graduating from Ball State with his Master’s degree in Computer Science, Jere was an inspiration to all that he met. Contracting polio as a child, he used an iron lung and was the first person in Indiana to receive tuition money from the Vocational Rehabilitation Agency. He received numerous awards for his achievements including Distinguished Alumni for Personal Achievement at Taylor University, Disabled Hoosier of the Year, and was named a Sagamore of the Wabash by the Governor of Indiana. He is remembered by his sense of humor and his determination to overcome adversity. Some words of wisdom from his acceptance speech in 1987 are still powerful today: "Let me remind you that you’re not a loser until you quit because, in life, there is no finish line."
Greg Fehribach, J.D., 1988: Receiving his J.D. from Ohio Northern University’s Pettit College of Law, Fehribach founded The Fehribach Group. Practicing law, he serves as a consultant for accessible design projects, ADA compliance, and investment. He resides in Indianapolis with his wife, Marybeth. Greg’s oldest son recently graduated from Ball State and his younger son is a current student. In addition to his legal work, Greg serves as a Distinguished Fellow with Ball State University’s Bowen Center where he researches and teaches Political Science classes. His advice for current students: "Find a mentor. They can provide you with valuable career advice, while connecting you to other professional networks."
William Powell, 1989: William Powell is involved in the field of education. He has taught at Indiana State University, the University of Nebraska, and the Indiana School for the Blind. He is currently the Assistive Technology Manager for BOSMA Enterprises/Rehabilitation—a company dedicated to providing products and services for the blind and visually impaired. Powell has traveled all around the world and currently lives in Indianapolis where he spends time with his grandson. His advice for current students: "Take school seriously, but remember that extra activities and social life are also important—learning to balance these three areas definitely helps enable you to balance a family, kids, and social commitments."
Max Adamson, 1990 (Deceased): Graduating from Ball State University in 1982, Max was both an undergraduate student worker and a graduate assistant in the Office of Disabled Student Development. Adamson was very involved in campus activities and worked diligently to ensure access and opportunities for the disabled community here on campus. In 1990, the Outstanding Student Scholarship was created in his name and is still distributed to this day in his memory. Upon graduation, he was employed at Ivy Technical Institute in Richmond where Adamson served as a Financial Aid Coordinator. He was quoted saying: "Graduation looks a long way away. You probably are not even able to visualize the idea of entering the job market and working 8-5. Work hard, get your degree and good experiences. Be confident in yourself. Only you can sell yourself."
Mitch Winger, 1991: Graduating from Ball State in 1986, Mitch moved to South Whitley, Indiana where he was elected clerk and treasurer. In addition to his 26 years in the elected position, Mitch and his wife have operated a trophy and awards business. He has two sons and enjoys swimming and golfing. His advice for current students: "Work hard, use the career services office, and network for future success."
Bruce Rose, 1992 (Deceased): Bruce was a student coordinator in the Office of Disabled Student Development for four years. Having a large impact on the Ball State community, Bruce co-authored a publication titled, An Orientation to Facilities, Resources, People, Programs, and Services at Ball State University for Disabled Students. Graduating with his degree in Telecommunications in 1982, he worked for the Lincoln National Corporation as a network analyst. He is remembered by his keen insight, caring demeanor, and his sense of humor. In 2008, the Harris-Rose Outstanding Alumnus Award was named in his memory.
Janice DeSanto, M.D, 1993: A practicing physician, Janice has received additional training to work as a specialist in pediatrics and neonatology from Indiana University. She currently practices at St. Vincent Women’s Hospital and is on staff as a neonatologist in Indianapolis. Janice enjoys traveling and spends time with her nieces and nephews who keep her busy. Her advice to current students: "Take advantage of resources available to make learning accessible."
Sam Napier, 1994: After graduating from Ball State, Sam moved to South Carolina to work at the state school for the deaf and blind. For the past 11 years, Sam has been teaching Special Education and coaching boys and girls tennis in a South Carolina high school. He and his wife have a daughter in college and a son who will enroll soon. His advice to current students: "Make sure to utilize all of the help and services available, including the DSD office."
Richard J. Edwards, 1995: Richard is currently the Director of Safety and ADA Compliance for the Department of Natural Resources in Indiana. Receiving numerous recognitions in his field, his work involves making sure properties are safe and to ensure that physical barriers are removed for people with disabilities. His advice to current students: "Volunteer in areas of interest. Attend public meetings and get involved in the community—work with politicians and public officials. Get to know the laws, regulations, and policies. Most important, appreciate and enjoy where you are now and don’t waste time."
Cherilyn Ryder, 1996: After her graduation in 1987, Cheri worked for Comprehensive Health for 5 years. She completed an MS in Social Work from IUPUI and then worked until recently for LaRue Carter Hospital. She and her husband John have one son who is finishing his junior year in high school. Her advice to current students: "Be assertive and don't give up."
Rod Stratman, 1997: After receiving his M.A. from Ball State, Rod spent time teaching disabled students in both Kentucky and Indiana. For the past five years, he has worked for Indiana Vocational Rehabilitation and collaborates with the Rehabilitation Hospital of Indiana and the Neuro Rehabilitation Center. He resides in Indianapolis. His advice to current students: "Be realistic about your disability. Know your strengths and weaknesses."
Gary D. Lee, 1998: Receiving his M.S. in Information and Communication Science, Gary has worked in various positions in University Computing Services here at Ball State. He enjoys reading, amateur radio, and playing and listening to music of various kinds. His advice to current students: "“Work your behind off. Right or wrong, you will always be proving yourself to the rest of the world. Remember there are many more of them than you, so you will have to do some accommodation to the world."
John McPherson, EdD, 1999: John holds a leadership position at Ball State University. Beginning his career as an Assistant Director of Scholarships and Financial Aid, he worked his way to the title of Director. He has worked in the Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid for 21 years. He resides in Muncie with his wife, Kathryn, and three children. His advice to current students: "Keep on plugging. You never know when an opportunity will be right in front of you. Work hard and be prepared."
Raymond Pavy, EdD, 2000: Dr. Pavy has been involved in the education sector for a number of years and has continued his education through a variety of continuing education courses and professional seminars. He served as the Assistant Superintendent of Schools for New Castle Community Schools for 31 years and has retired. A recent statement from Dr. Pavy included: "I keep running into BSU graduates with disabilities who are out in the world. There are still many mountains to flatten but it is much better than 30 years ago."
Elizabeth Martin, M.D., 2001: Dr. Martin attended Indiana Medical School after graduating from Ball State. After receiving her M.D. in psychiatry, Liz served the VA for several years. She now practices in Florida where she lives with her husband and two children. Her advice for students is: "Follow your dreams - but keep your feet (or wheels) planted in reality."
Leah (Boyle) Vickery, 2002: After her graduation in 1992, she began working for Ball State establishing the Adapted Computer Technology Lab. In addition to launching that resource for students with disabilities, she was tireless in promoting access to technology for many individual students. She left BSU to work for California-Northridge in 2000. She is considered to be a real leader in her field.
Kirk VanGilder, 2003: Currently working towards his PhD in Practical Theology and Missions at Boston University, Kirk has been actively involved in the United Methodist Church (ordained) and has traveled to numerous places around the globe to work with Deaf communities since his departure from Ball State. He has also worked at Gallaudet University teaching religion and general studies to undergraduates. His advice to current students: "Take your education seriously. Decide what you want from your education and find it wherever you can in the curriculum. Taking control of your education will make it far more worthwhile than just coasting through."
Michael D. Lawler, 2004: Providing technical support for Window-Eyes, Mike has held a support and development position at GW Micro for 17 years. He has been married to his wife, Melissa, for 19 years and has two children. His advice for current students: "I’d say that they should identify their goals, what it will take to achieve those goals, and remember that education is critical, but networking with people is just as critical to success."
Ken Madler, 2005: Receiving his Master’s degree in Audiology, Ken has worked at different hospitals in the state of Indiana. In 2003, he opened his own private practice and has taken continuing education courses to maintain his licensure. He currently resides in Winchester, Indiana. His advice to current students: “Don’t quit!”
Daniel A. Ward, 2006: Daniel is a disability rights advocate. Working for the Indiana Protection and Advocacy Services since 2000, he is responsible for needs assessment and occasionally works on cases that involve abuse, neglect, and rights violations. He enjoys spending time with his family and is actively involved with ministries at his church. His advice for current students: "Try to fully enjoy the college experience. Maintaining good grades is essential, but you need to have balance while in college to enjoy it completely. So, pursue whatever interests that you have while in school, and make the most of what BSU has to offer for students."
Adam Havice, 2007: Serving in the local community after graduation, Adam has taught at Muncie Southside High School for eight years and serves as its head volleyball coach. He has participated in countless continuing education courses and resides in town with his wife and two sons. His advice for current students: "Do your best. Don’t get frustrated. Use the help that is available to you and ask for help when you need it."
Brian Eckstein, 2008 (Deceased): While a student at Ball State, Brian worked in the news department and won more than one Associated Press award. Graduating in 1995 with a degree in Telecommunications, Brian was employed by Northeast Indiana Public Radio as the Classical Music Host. In 1997, he returned to the Ball State campus to work for Indiana Public Radio. In his free time, he enjoyed traveling, computers, and restaurants. His advice for current students: "Find something you can do, and do it! With so much emphasis on what we as disabled persons can’t do, it's easy to fool ourselves into believing we actually can't do something, when in reality, there are many things we can find that we can do, and those are the traits that we need to emphasize, promote within ourselves and to others, and to celebrate." Brian passed away suddenly at the age of 40 in November 2011. He is remembered for his wonderful work at IPR and his love of music.
Linda Strunck, 2009: Linda has been an instructor in the Special Education department at Ball State University since 1997. She has continued her education by participating in professional development, technology training, and has engaged in the Faculty Mentorship Program through the Office of Disabled Student Development. She has a wonderful family and has recently learned how to crochet and loom. Her advice for current students: "Be patient with yourself! Be aware and open to new opportunities for your growth."
Danny Taylor, 2010: Danny has been an asset to Ball State students, faculty, and staff. Playing a role in the Ball State library, Danny has maintained the periodicals and reserves for 40 years. He currently resides in Muncie and retired in March 2010. His advice for current students: "Don’t get discouraged."
Don Stevens, 2011: Don has been an active advocate in the disability community since leaving Ball State University in 1997. He is involved in the Coalition of Citizens with Disabilities in Illinois where he serves as an officer and has worked for the accessibility of new housing units. In 1998, Don began his work as an information specialist at O’Hare Airport where he still currently works. He resides in Illinois with his wife. His advice for current students: "People with disabilities are just that. We are people first. We can lead active productive lives. People with disabilities can be married, have families, jobs, cars, houses, own our own businesses, or anything else under the sun that anyone one else can have. In fact, we have the right to have just as much debt as anyone else."
Carlos Taylor, 2012: Carlos has earned two degrees from Ball State: a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Information Technology in 2002 and a Master of Science degree in Information and Communication Sciences in 2005. In his current role as Ball State’s Adaptive Technology Specialist, Carlos keeps abreast with the newest technology and has shared his knowledge and skills with the Ball State community. Carlos is widely regarded as an expert in his field and has served as president of the Indiana Association on Disability and Higher Education. His advice for current students: "Don't let your fears keep you from living life to its fullest. Try meeting your fears head-on and you'll see that things aren't always as bad as they seem."
Audie Kemp, 2013: While at Ball State, Audie earned a Bachelor’s degree in Exercise Science in 1996 and was heavily involved in Adaptive Physical Education. He now serves as the Head Coach for the RHI Racers, a wheelchair basketball team based out of Indianapolis. Audie is also on the Board of Directors for the Rehabilitation Hospital of Indiana Sports Program, which specializes in offering adaptive sports and recreational opportunities for Indiana citizens with disabilities. Since graduating, he has established a successful career as a Rehabilitation Technology Specialist at ATG Rehab in Indianapolis. In this role, he inspects various mobility products to ensure that they are a proper fit for individuals with disabilities.